Ecologies of stage presence in dance and performance 

Sarah Pini


The notion of stage presence  refers to the performer’s individual ability to enchant the audience’s attention. Scholars who adopted an enactive and phenomenological perspective have stressed the limits of such a view. By focusing primarily on the agency of the skilled performer, the classic notion of stage presence neglects other relevant aspects contributing to shaping phenomena of presence, such as audience’s participation. Here I suggest adopting an ethnographic cognitive ecological approach to the study of presence in performance and I present varieties of presence in three different dance practices and choreographic contexts: distributed embodied presence in the re-creation of Emio Greco’s piece Passione for the Ballet National de Marseille; social presence and interkinaesthetic agency in Contact Improvisation; and environmental attunement, ecological agency and situated presence in Body Weather. By exploring how dancers articulate their lived experience of presence, and how different performance ecologies shape different experiences of presence, I suggest adopting an ecological notion of presence in dance and performance.


Sarah Pini is Assistant Professor of dance and performance at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU). She works interdisciplinary across the fields of performance studies, cultural and medical anthropology, phenomenology of the body and illness, performing arts, dance, and cognition in skilled performance. Her work has been published in Collaborative Embodied Performance: Ecologies of Skill (Bloomsbury), The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Ballet, Synthese, Performance Research, Frontiers in Psychology, among others.